Thus did Meadows, in 2019, join the great epistemologists Rudy Giuliani (“Truth isn’t truth,” 2018) and Kellyanne Conway (“alternative facts,” 2017) in their pathbreaking work on the Theory of Subjective Truths.
Meadows’s truth-is-in-the-eyes-of-the-beholder defense was the best impeachment defense of Trump since, well, last week, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) debuted the incompetence defense: “What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.” That’s quite a reelection slogan.
Before that, the most creative defense had been developed by Conway, who argued that, whatever happened in reality, “there was no quid pro quo intended.” What matters, she said, is what was in Trump’s “heart, mind or soul.”
Even House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) would surely prefer to close down the investigation before issuing a subpoena for Trump’s soul.
But if Meadows, Graham and Conway are the finest scholars in the field of truthiness, many others have made worthy contributions. Let us consider some of the finest impeachment defenses of Trump yet proposed, all by current and former Trump advisers and congressional Republicans:
There is no quid pro quo.
You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.
We do quid pro quos all the time.
Testimony from second-hand witnesses is hearsay, which is unreliable.
On the format of hearings:
Transcripts cannot substitute for live testimony because of body language.
The Democrats are staging a televised “show trial.”
On Trump’s view of aid to Ukraine:
Trump holds a deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine.
Trump has always been skeptical about foreign aid and doesn’t want to give any to Ukraine.
Military aid to Ukraine has substantially improved under Trump.
On the July 25 phone call:
On the significance of the whistleblower:
Whoever gave information to the whistleblower is close to a spy and could be executed for treason.
Almost everything the whistleblower said was “sooo wrong.”
You may spot some inconsistencies in these Trump defenses. You may even detect contradictions. This is because, as Meadows says, everybody has his or her own impression of what truth is — and yours just happens to be wrong.
For example, it is entirely consistent to say that Trump’s closest aides are justified in ignoring congressional subpoenas for their testimony — yet at the same time express amazement that witnesses have had no direct contact with the president. It is perfectly reasonable to assert that there was no direct linkage between military funds and political investigations — even if another Trump defender had already made such a link and told us to “get over it.”
Sometimes Trump may feel that Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, is a really good man and great American. At other times, he may believe that he hardly knows that gentleman. That is Trump’s personal truth impression.
Likewise, State Department official George Kent can be, at one moment, the hero who warned of a Biden conflict of interest in Ukraine — and the next, a Never Trumper and symbol of a politicized bureaucracy.
The Bidens, and Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian company Burisma, inspire particular creativity. At times, we hear that Trump knew almost nothing about Burisma or that the Biden son was on its board. (One defender explained that Trump was trying to say “Burisma” but inadvertently blurted out “Biden.”) At other times, we hear that Trump had a solemn duty to look into the corrupt Biden activities at Burisma.
Trump has done nothing wrong, even though he had every right to. He can’t be impeached because the quid pro quo wasn’t consummated. And abuse of power is not a crime.
Confused? So are Trump’s defenders.